Monday, May 29

Russian and British defense ministers to meet to discuss Ukraine

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu has accepted an invitation to meet his British counterpart Ben Wallace and discuss the crisis on the Russia-Ukraine border, a UK defense source said on Saturday.

“The secretary of defense is pleased that Russia has accepted the invitation to speak with his counterpart,” the source said.

“Since the last bilateral meeting between our two countries took place in London in 2013, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu has proposed to meet in Moscow,” he added.

On the British side, “the minister made it clear that he would explore all avenues to achieve stability and resolve the Ukrainian crisis,” added the source, who specified that he was still “in communication with the Russian government” about the practical details.

The announcement comes at a time of some detente between the West and Moscow.

On Friday, during negotiations in Geneva and after several weeks of verbal escalation, the heads of Russian and US diplomacy, Sergei Lavrov and Antony Blinken, agreed to continue their “frank” talks next week.

This gave UN Secretary-General António Guterres hope that a Russian invasion or military incursion into Ukraine “will not happen.”

More directly, the head of the German Navy, Vice Admiral Kay-Achim Schönbach, dismissed the invasion scenario as “nonsense”. The statements caused his resignation this Saturday, as announced by the Ministry of Defense.

The West accuses Russia of massing tens of thousands of troops on the border to prepare an attack.

The Kremlin denies any warlike intention but conditions the de-escalation to treaties that guarantee the non-expansion of NATO, in particular to Ukraine, as well as the withdrawal of the Atlantic Alliance from Eastern Europe.

Something that Westerners consider unacceptable and threaten Russia with harsh sanctions in the event of an attack.

Few military experts believe Kiev’s forces can repel a Russian invasion, though they are rapidly modernizing.

But British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss warned on Friday that Moscow still risks getting caught up in a “terrible quagmire” if it decides to invade.

In a speech delivered in Australia, the head of British diplomacy issued a strong and personal warning to Russian President Vladimir Putin, warning him that he could be about to make a big strategic mistake. “He didn’t learn the lessons of history,” said Truss at the Lowy Institute in Sydney.

“Ukrainians will fight this, it could be a quagmire,” he added.

Russia has pressed Ukraine since an uprising nearly a decade ago toppled a government that had resisted calls for it to move closer to the West.

Moscow seized the Crimean peninsula in 2014, when a pro-Russian insurrection broke out in eastern Ukraine that has since claimed more than 13,000 lives.

Ukraine’s calls for Western allies to bolster their defense capabilities have prompted the United States, Britain and the Baltic states to agree to send weapons, including anti-tank and anti-aircraft missiles, to Kiev.

However, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba on Saturday lashed out at Germany for its refusal to supply arms to the country, urging Berlin to stop “undermining unity” and “encouraging Vladimir Putin”.

Kuleba wrote on Twitter that Germany’s statements “about the impossibility of supplying defense weapons to Ukraine” were not in line with “the current security situation”.

Also, the Ukrainian minister stressed that “the unity of the West in relation to Russia is today more important than ever.”

Ukraine is “grateful” to Germany for the support it has already given, but its “current statements are disappointing,” he added.

Earlier, German Defense Minister Christine Lambrecht had said that Berlin would send a field hospital to Ukraine, but again rejected the Ukrainian government’s requests for arms.